In the aftermath of a series of shootings around Yuma County early Thursday morning that left five people dead, including respected Yuma lawyer Jerrold Shelley, community members expressed their thoughts on his impact on both the legal field and in the community.
Shelley, a husband, father of four and grandfather, started his legal practice in Yuma in 1976, according to criminal/personal injury lawyer John Minore.
Minore said Shelley had started with Bob Roberson and eventually went solo with his firm in the late '90s.
“He was a great guy,” Minore said, adding that even in a line of work where one side likes someone and the other hates them, Shelley was still “a class” man.
Minore referred to Shelley as a friend and had last seen him on Tuesday, when Shelley discussed his impending retirement.
Steve Rouff, a local criminal defense and divorce case attorney, praised Shelley and also said he had discussed retirement plans.
“He was a gentleman, a wonderful lawyer. It's just an absolute travesty that he would die this way,” Rouff said.
Rouff said Shelley had planned to move furniture out of his office Tuesday. “He told me he wanted to retire because he didn't want to die at his desk.”
He never heard a bad word said of Shelley, Rouff said, adding that he was an extreme professional. “He was a guy who worked hard with his clients. Even though he'd be aggressive, you were never angry with him.
“This is truly a loss to the legal community.”
Former judge Tom Thode said that unfortunately, statistics show that shootings in the legal field are most common in domestic and custody matters.
Thode also had fond words about Shelley. “I can say without hesitation he was one of the most honest and conscientious lawyers. You could always trust his work.”
Not only is Shelley a loss to the legal community, but he was also a known churchgoer with the Second Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Yuma.
Bishop Val Taylor said when he had first arrived to the ward in 1992, Shelley was one of the counselors to the bishop in the church, has been in the high priest group, taught Sunday school and worked with the youth programs, Taylor said — “just a faithful member to our congregation and to the community.”
Taylor said Shelley was a very loving man, has a twin brother named John who was mentally handicapped and has taken care of him for the past 16 years since their parents passed away.
Taylor said Shelley believed in family to the extent that he bought a weekend home in Phoenix to be closer to his children when they moved there.
Andrew Gould, presiding judge of Superior Court in Yuma County, knew Shelley for 18 years and could also confirm Shelley's attentiveness to his family.
Gould said Shelley always made sure to take a family vacation in July and was currently preparing to work the court's schedule around the upcoming month.
Gould went on to describe Shelley as a “second to none” professional in the courtroom.
“He was a fantastic trial attorney — one of the best trial attorneys I have ever seen.”